Soligor was the brand name of products sold by Allied Import-Export, also named Allied Impex, or AiC, distributing photography hardware in the US. They had branch offices at most major centers at the height of their activity. The name Soligor is said to be based on the Japanese nickname of a lens series, Solid Gold, shortened to Soligor. I am not sure if it is true, but it well could be.
Soligor’s dealt with lenses, filters, meters, adapters, projectors, etc., most sourced from Japan. The brand enjoyed mixed quality perception, just as other distributors like Kalimar, Argus, Hanimex, and so forth. Selling products made by different suppliers was common amongst US wholesalers. Another reason to use an umbrella brand name was that, at the time, Japanese brands were considered inferior to Geman, so such origin was kept in the shadows. The company’s claim to fame was the lenses line, for which it is known till now.
Allied Impex was formed in the mid-1930s by four German refugees, all Jews, who managed to escape Germany before the gates fell shut. Escaping was only part of the equation, as it took a country willing to accept them, not a given at the time. See the voyage of the damned, a vessel loaded with refugees which was bounced from port to port, refused entry, and returned to Germany for most of her passengers to perish.
In about 1956, Allied Impex took on the US distribution of the Miranda camera line. This low-aspiration Japanese start-up came into the market that year, making cameras inspired by the than-mighty Ihagee. Gradually, Allied Impex took a share in Miranda, assuming for financial support. In 1963, it took full ownership. The cameras made under Allied full ownership are marked with the nameplate ‘AiC’.
Miranda had limited camera models to offer, mainly TLR models. To complement that, AiC turned to other camera makers, selling an eclectic collection made by Tokiwa, Fuji, Nihon Selli, Regula, Topcon, Cosina, Minolta, Petri and Seagull, as well as two homegrown SLR Miranda models renamed Soligor. I wonder how parts and service coped with this assortment. Later, throughout the 1990s, long after the company’s demise, someone took over the Soligor name for a long list of cheap point-and-shoot cameras. All are now long gone.
AIC and Miranda shut down in the mid-1970s due to management failure, quality, increased competition, or a mix thereof. There is a long, winding, grumpy archived article by a certain Lee Mannheimer; I guess a fellow Jew named after Mannheim, the town my family came from. It is unreadable, so a formatted copy is posted here.
In the 1970s, AIC established a German company aimed at the European market. The company is alive and well. It is now named Soligor and sells photography paraphernalia.
The Soligor 45 was a rebrand of the Nihon Seiki Nescon 35. AiC sold cameras from several Japanese suppliers, and this is the only model made by Nihon Seiki in Japan. The cameras are identical, other than the model name.
There were two versions of the Soligor 45. The early model had a removable bottom, early Leica style. The latter had a fully removable back, which I have here. The camera was sold cheaply at USD 20, whereas other compatible models were twice as much.
Most cameras made in Japan in the 1950’s are similar, with style and features broadly the same on various manufacturer’s models.
Nihon Seiki made two models that rarely show up for sale: The Nescon and the Ranger. A third model, the Mikronta 35, is mentioned at McKeown’s as a version of the Nescon, but there is no other mention elsewhere. Further, the Halina 35X strongly resembles the Nescon, so there could be an out-of-wedlock relation, although it came out four years after the Nescon. It looks similar, but the finishes are poor compared to the Nescon, which was not a prime model either.
The Soligor 45 / Nescon 35 is a tiny viewfinder camera, not as elegant as the Taisei or the Shinano I looked at earlier. The top and bottom are made of punched metal, not machined as in other Japanese models. Operation is straightforward. On top, the winder is skirted with a frame counter with two reset pins. The middle bulge holds the viewer, tiny as common at that decade’s crop. The trigger is housed within a large ring, with the rewind release pinhead next to it, marked R. Cold shoe and rewind knob complete the top. The back is removable, locked by a winged catch, marked C and O. Inside is a nicely made takeoff pivot with twin cogs to guide the film.
The front assembly is different from other cameras. The lens-mounted cocking lever serves the left index finger, not on top as most cameras had it. The speed selector slides in a rough-looking slot, with notched stops next to each speed, modestly offered 25, B, 50, and 100, in this order. The zone-focusing dial is in front of it, marked feet. The aperture dial is at the front. In most cameras, the focusing ring is at the front end. Here, it is in reverse. The lens here is 4.5/40, whereas the Nescon has a 3.5/40.
To operate the shutter, it takes winding the film, which stops after each frame, and cock the lens-mounted lever. In many cameras, you may cock the lever and fire without winding the film. Here, you cannot. The shutter seems to be made of two leaves.
|Camdex list number
Nihon Seiki Nescon 35
|Nihon Seiki Nescon 35
|470 gr, Body with lens
|Class average weight
|450 gr, Body with lens
|Two-leaf scissors type
|Service / repair links